23.01.1993: MY BROTHERS A MUJAHID, CONFESSES A SAUDI BANKER



C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RIYADH 00593

E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR TAGS: PINR, SOCI, PGOV, SA SUBJECT: MY BROTHERS A MUJAHID, CONFESSES A SAUDI BANKER

1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT.

2. SUMMARY: AN OTHERWISE CALM SENIOR BANKER RECENTLY REVEALED TO US THAT HIS BROTHER HAD FOUGHT WITH THE MUJAHIDEEN IN AFGHANISTAN. HIS ACCOUNT ILLUSTRATES THE DIFFERENT VIEWS OF ISLAM AND SOCIETY THAT EXIST IN SAUDI ARABIA, EVEN WITHIN FAMILIES - - DIFFERENCES THAT GO FAR BEYOND THE COMMONPLACE ISSUES OF THE ROLE OF THE MUTAWWAIN. END SUMMARY.

3. THE CHARGE RECENTLY TALKED TO A PROMINENT BANK PRESIDENT AND FORMER FINANCE MINISTRY OFFICIAL. DURING THE DISCUSSION, THIS SOBER-MINDED PERSON REVEALED THAT HIS BROTHER FOUGHT WITH THE MUJAHIDEEN FOR FOUR MONTHS IN AFGHANISTAN IN 1991. AS AN EXPLANATION, HE DESCRIBED HIS BROTHER AS A 19 YEAR OLD KID WHO HAD NOT FINISHED SCHOOL AND WHO WAS BORED WITH HIS EXISTENCE IN SAUDI ARABIA. FOR HIM, FIGHTING FOR ISLAM IN AFGHANISTAN WAS AN EXCITING ALTERNATIVE, A WAY TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP PERSONAL RELIGIOUS FAITH.

4. THE BANKER DID NOT VOLUNTEER ANY DETAILS OF HIS BROTHERS STAY IN AFGHANISTAN, BUT INSTEAD SKIPPED AHEAD TO THE POINT OF HIS RETURN. WHEN THE BROTHER CAME BACK AFTER HIS JAUNT, THE FAMILY WAS WORRIED "THAT HE MIGHT GET INTO TROUBLE." SO, THE FAMILY QUICKLY ARRANGED A MARRIAGE - - "TOOK CARE OF THAT RIGHT AWAY". GRATEFUL FOR SMALL FAVORS, THE BANKER WAS HAPPY TO REPORT THAT HIS YOUNGER BROTHER HAS NOT EXPRESSED ANY DESIRE TO GO FIGHT IN BOSNIA.

5. SINCE HIS RETURN, AND CONTRARY TO THE FAMILYS EXPECTATION, THE BROTHER HAS DECLINED TO LIVE WITH HIS MOTHER, WHO LIVES ALONE IN RIYADH. INSTEAD, HE DECIDED TO MOVE TO DAMMAM. OUR CONTACT EXPRESSED THE FEAR THAT HIS BROTHER IS TRYING TO SEVER HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE REST OF THE FAMILY. THE BANKER SAID HIS BROTHER, ALTHOUGH POLITE, AVOIDS TALKING TO HIM BECAUSE HE IS A BANKER, A VOCATION THAT THE BROTHER FINDS DISTASTEFUL.

6. THE BANKER SAID THAT, DESPITE THE INFLUENCE OF RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES SUCH AS HIS BROTHER, SAUDI ARABIA IS A STABLE COUNTRY, IN LITTLE DANGER OF GOING THE WAY OF IRAN OR ALGERIA. HE CONTINUED THAT, UNLIKE IN SUDAN AND IRAN, THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY IN SAUDI ARABIA DOES NOT SUPPORT THE EXTREMISTS. HERE, PEOPLE RECOGNIZE THAT THE EXTREMISTS ARE ONLY GRABBING FOR POWER, NOT RELIGION. THE BANKER SAID THAT EXTREMISTS WERE MORE LIKELY TO BRING ABOUT CHAOS THAN SUCCESS THROUGH THEIR ECONOMIC PROGRAMS, AS SHOWN IN SUDAN AND IRAN. THERE, EXTREMISTS DID NOT FIX ECONOMIES - THEY RUINED THEM.

7. IN SAUDI ARABIA, THE KING HOLDS ALL THE CARDS, AND IS ABLE TO TONE DOWN OR QUASH SUCH DISSENT AT ANY TIME. THE BANKER SAID THAT THE KING DID PRECISELY THAT A FEW YEARS AGO, WITH RAPID SUCCESS. THE DANGER, HE SAID, WAS NOT THAT EXTREMISTS WOULD TOPPLE THE SAG WITH FORCE. RATHER THE DANGER IS THAT, BY FORCEFULLY CHALLENGING THE SAG, THE EXTREMISTS WILL RISK TEARING THE FABRIC OF SAUDI SOCIETY.

8. THE BANKER DID CONCEDE THAT SOME BUSINESSMEN DO STAND OUT FOR THEIR SUPPORT FOR ISLAMIC GROUPS, CITING THE EXAMPLE OF USAMA BIN LADEN. ALTHOUGH MOST KNOWN FOR HIS FUNDING OF MUJAHIDEEN GROUPS IN AFGHANISTAN, BIN LADEN HAS GIVEN MONEY TO SEVERAL ISLAMIC CAUSES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. THE BANKER SAID BIN LADEN IS AN EXCEPTION TO THE GENERAL ATTITUDE OF MOST BUSINESSMEN IN SAUDI ARABIA. MOST, HE REPEATED, DO NOT SUPPORT THE GOALS OF EXTREMISTS.

9. COMMENT: THIS GENTLEMAN HAS OBVIOUSLY GIVEN THE DIFFICULT PROBLEM OF EXTREMISM IN SAUDI ARABIA SOME THOUGHT. HAVING A TRUE BELIEVER WILLING TO FIGHT FOR ISLAM FOR A BROTHER HAS GIVEN HIM GOOD REASON. OTHER SAUDI BUSINESS AND GOVERNMENT FIGURES HAVE MADE SIMILAR COMMENTS ON EXTREMISTS AND THE STABILITY OF SAUDI ARABIA, AND WE ASSUME SOME FACE THE SAME FAMILIAL DIVIDE. AT PRESENT, THEIR JUDGEMENTS THAT THE KINGDOM IS STABLE SEEM CORRECT, BUT THE DIFFERENCES OF OPINION IN THEIR OWN FAMILIES ILLUSTRATES THE DEPTH OF THE DISAGREEMENTS OVER THE PROPER ROLE OF ISLAM IN SAUDI SOCIETY.

10. FOR MANY OF OUR BANKER FRIENDS GENERATION, IT IS NOT THE ISLAMIC CONTENT OF THE THOUGHT OF THEIR YOUNGER BROTHERS (AND SONS) THAT SCARES THEM. SOCIALLY, THEY ARE, BY AND LARGE, A VERY CONSERVATIVE, DEVOUT LOT THEMSELVES. RATHER, THEY ARE WORRIED ABOUT HOW ENGAGED THE YOUNG ARE IN SAUDI ARABIA. IT IS THE BOREDOM AND LACK OF DIRECTION THAT INSPIRED THE YOUNGER BROTHER TO FIGHT IN AFGHANISTAN, AND IMPELS OTHERS DOMESTICALLY; THAT IN TURN CAUSES CONCERN AMONG THE OLDER GENERATION, WHO CHERISH THE STABILITY OF THE KINGDOM. END COMMENT.

WELCH


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